Upgrades to Pet Food Feeding System
An existing pet food feeding system was utilized to study the consumption and feeding behavior of pets to assess dry food. Data was collected as pets fed throughout the day. Food storage containers opened when triggered by RFID scanners. Pet behavior such as selection between two dry foods at first approach, consumption, eating behavior, second approach, etc. was monitored. Data was captured and stored in a custom software system for later analysis and reporting.
Design limitations allowed pets to circumvent study controls which compromised the accuracy of data. Deficiencies resulted in pets being able to determine how to open the food container doors manually, scoop food out of bowls to consume later, access the feeding door with multiple pets at once, and other issues that occurred due to the existing hardware and software configurations. Overall, the integrity of the existing feeding system data was unreliable and could not be trusted to make valid decisions about the dry food being studied.
The functional description was provided by the existing pet feeding system and reviewed with senior level staff and engineering. A detailed review of existing code and storage systems were provided to document the migration of data throughout the system. The client requested to retain the existing software system that supported data analysis, formulation, and reporting. Rockwell, AVEVA and SQL platforms were utilized for the pet feeding system controls and data storage. Pilot studies were conducted to test the latest technology for hardware such as RFID scanners and weigh scales.
The RFID scanners and scales that performed the best under the specifications were selected based on the pilot study results. PLC logic was programmed to provide the sequential control to track the pet feeding sessions. The system was configured with data storage for inbound instructions and outbound results. The object-oriented design enables streamlined replication of additional systems. The reporting system includes queries for single or joint pet data points for analysis across all systems.
Automation updates and design improvements resulted in proper functioning of the study. Modernizing IO information, customizing RFID, configuring bowl orientation, and optimizing the system with updated platforms led to collection of accurate and reliable study data for pet feeding sessions. Further improvements such as the incorporation of more sensitive scales led to more accurate measurement of pet food consumption down to one gram. The updated design will be implemented on remaining existing systems and applied to new pet feeding systems at the client facility.