WO2012001422A1 - Aquatic creature feeding cassette, and automatic feeder - Google Patents

Aquatic creature feeding cassette, and automatic feeder

Info

Publication number
WO2012001422A1
WO2012001422A1 PCT/GB2011/051243 GB2011051243W WO2012001422A1 WO 2012001422 A1 WO2012001422 A1 WO 2012001422A1 GB 2011051243 W GB2011051243 W GB 2011051243W WO 2012001422 A1 WO2012001422 A1 WO 2012001422A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
cassette
feed
feeder
pack
auto
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2011/051243
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Barry Reynolds
Original Assignee
Reef One Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A01AGRICULTURE; FORESTRY; ANIMAL HUSBANDRY; HUNTING; TRAPPING; FISHING
    • A01KANIMAL HUSBANDRY; CARE OF BIRDS, FISHES, INSECTS; FISHING; REARING OR BREEDING ANIMALS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NEW BREEDS OF ANIMALS
    • A01K5/00Feeding devices for stock or game ; Feeding wagons; Feeding stacks
    • A01K5/02Automatic devices
    • A01K5/0291Automatic devices with timing mechanisms, e.g. pet feeders
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A01AGRICULTURE; FORESTRY; ANIMAL HUSBANDRY; HUNTING; TRAPPING; FISHING
    • A01KANIMAL HUSBANDRY; CARE OF BIRDS, FISHES, INSECTS; FISHING; REARING OR BREEDING ANIMALS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NEW BREEDS OF ANIMALS
    • A01K61/00Culture of aquatic animals
    • A01K61/80Feeding devices
    • A01K61/85Feeding devices for use with aquaria
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02ATECHNOLOGIES FOR ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02A40/00Adaptation technologies in agriculture, forestry, livestock or agroalimentary production
    • Y02A40/80Adaptation technologies in agriculture, forestry, livestock or agroalimentary production in fisheries management
    • Y02A40/81Aquaculture, i.e. culture of aquatic animals
    • Y02A40/845Feeding devices

Abstract

A pack (300) containing feed for aquatic creatures comprises a cassette (302) for operation with an automatic feeder (150), said cassette comprising a cassette body, said cassette further comprising a plurality of discrete feed compartments (306), each feed compartment having an aperture (314) located in the base of said cassette, said pack further comprising a quantity of removable tape (316) covering a succession of said discrete compartments, said tape being arranged to block the passage of feed out of the compartment when covering said apertures and allowing feed, in use, to fall out of said pack as a portion of said tape covering said apertures is peeled back; said removable tape being so attached to said cassette body as to separately hermetically seal the aperture of each compartment.

Description

Aquatic creature feeding cassette, and automatic feeder Field of the Invention

The invention concerns a cassette for the delivering of doses of food, nutrients and medicine or other such substances into an aquatic environment, and is specifically, but not exclusively concerned with delivering pre-determined doses, and is designed specifically, but not exclusively to carry dried powdered and / or granular feed. The invention also concerns automatic feeders.

Background

A method of and apparatus for feeding fish automatically which is known to the Applicant is shown at figure 1. Here a hopper style device 2, has a wide end 4 for receiving substance 6 and a narrow end 8 for dispensing substance 2. The narrow end 8 of the hopper 2 is either suspended above (as here) or placed directly in the water of an aquatic environment 10. The narrow end 8 is capped by a rotating disc 12 with one or more apertures 14 in it. The disc 12 can rotate at a predetermined rate, for example around an axis 16 offset from the narrow end 8 of hopper 2, and when the aperture 14 of the disc 12 aligns with aperture 18 in the narrow end 8 of the hopper 2, a portion of the contents of the hopper 2 will drop through the apertures 14, 18 and into the aquatic environment 10. The regularity and duration of such alignments can be modulated in accord with the user's wishes, to an extent. This hopper device has several drawbacks and problems, which the inventions claimed herein seek to solve: The first is that there is really very little control of the amount of substance introduced through the aperture by this device; food, for example often has a non-uniform density, and as such different quantities of it might drop through during a given period of opening. Equally the amount of substance which drops through may be governed to some extent by the amount of substance pushing it down from above. The degree of feed rate will therefore be variable. In the simple case of feeding fish, it can be the case that overfeeding them at worst will kill them or at best cause undesirable levels of bacteria, and fungus to develop which could have detrimental impact on the well-being of the fish. Alternatively, since the feed is dispensed in the prior art through an aperture which is constantly exposed to the aqueous environment blockages might arise which could cause underfeeding of the fish. If the amount of food given in a dose is uncertain, then both outcomes are quite possible with this device; the individual doses may be too big, or the total amount of food in the hopper too small to last for the duration of time in which automatic feeding is required. The second major drawback is the exposure of the substance to the environment, be it food or, as importantly, medicine and/or chemicals for treatment of the water. Exposure of this type risks tainting the substance to be added, rendering it ineffective or even poisonous. A second piece of related prior art, Patent US6467431 B1 , (Stietzel) discloses a fish feeding device for automatically feeding fish at pre-determined intervals comprising a housing adapted for mounting to a side of a fish tank and a feeding wheel which is rotatably mounted to the housing. The housing comprises a timer in communication with a motor which rotates the feeding wheel at a pre-determined time or interval. The feeding wheel must be loaded by the user and is not disposable.

A third piece of prior art, Patent US 5,709,166 (Evans) discloses an automatic fish feeder with a dispensing wheel with a plurality of circumferentially disposed discrete food traps which open under the action of a trip pin. Summary of the invention

In a first broad, independent aspect, the invention provides a pack containing feed for aquatic creatures and/or for other enclosed creatures comprising a cassette for operation with an automatic feeder, said cassette comprising a cassette body, said cassette further comprising a plurality of discrete feed compartments, each feed compartment having an aperture located in the base of said cassette, said pack further comprising a quantity of removable tape covering a succession of said discrete compartments, said tape being arranged to block the passage of feed out of the compartment when covering said apertures and allowing feed, in use, to fall out of said pack as a portion of said tape covering said apertures is peeled back; said removable tape being so attached to said cassette body as to separately hermetically seal the aperture of each compartment. The technical advantages of this configuration include the ability to measure a dose of feed with some exactness; chambers are filled with a given quantity of feed which can then be let out at a given rate by an automatic feeding device. Knowing how much feed is to be administered during a particular time span, quickly and easily, allows for consistent and correct dosing of feed, where prior art inventions, in which the feeder must be manually loaded are inexact and far more open to user error, which can in the worst case be fatal to the inhabitants of a given aquatic environment - and in many cases be deleterious to their health.

This pack configuration is particularly advantageous since it is particularly straightforward to load in a feeder. It also allows ready assessment of how many compartment have been used. It also allows for improved sealing and dispensing of the feed particularly in the context of fish feed. Various improvements within this concept contribute to the simplification of the process of loading and unloading a pack to an automatic feeder. In a further subsidiary aspect, said compartments contain feed in granular form. In a preferred embodiment, the walls of the compartment widen out towards the aperture, this further assists the contents to exit from the compartment when the aperture is revealed as the tape is peeled back. In a further subsidiary aspect, said pack incorporates at regular intervals compartments which contain chemicals for the treatment of the aquatic environment and/or the fish. This configuration is particularly advantageous because it allows both the feeding and the treatment of the aqueous environment and/or the fish from a single pack.

In a further subsidiary aspect, at least one compartment contains a mixture of feed and chemicals for the treatment of the aquatic environment and/or the fish.

A further advantage conferred by the pack is that by hermetically sealing the individual chambers separately, each dose can be kept fresh, and thereby be preserved for a long period of time - the degrading of latterly administered doses, which is a weakness inherent in the hopper design of the prior art is thereby avoided.

Preferably, each of the feed compartments is identical in volume to all of the other feed compartments. The provision of identical doses allows for consistently accurate dosing over a given period of time.

Preferably, the cassette body further comprises an elongate strip, the feed compartments being integrally formed with the strip, and wherein the apertures run through the said strip. The elongate strip design is user friendly; the strip can easily be fed into the machine. The strip design is also easily readable by the user, who can see how many doses have been used and how many remain simply by noting the position of the strip in relation to the auto-feeder. Where the strip comprises translucent compartments, this advantage is even more pronounced, because the user can see which chambers are full and which are empty.

Preferably, the cassette further comprises a space between each of said compartments. The provisions of such a space advantageously allows for the separate sealing of each feed compartment. Second, the spacing of compartments allows the cassette body to be easily separated into segments.

Preferably, the feed compartments are evenly spaced along the elongate strip. This allows the compartments to be unproblematically fed through the machine, and allows for the easy recognition by the user of the extent to which a particular strip has been used. Preferably, the area of the aperture of each mouth is identical. This allows for a uniform speed of dosing and ensures compatibility with the feeder and straightforward

transference to the chute.

Preferably the pack comprises at least one edge section, the edge section having a top face and a bottom face, and a row of holes, each of the holes passing through the said edge section from the top face to the bottom face, the holes being evenly spaced. The edge sections provide a means of closely collocating the pack to a feeder and the holes provide a means for the feeder to interface with the pack, recognising how far a pack has to be fed through the feeder in order to dispense a dose, for example.

Preferably the cassette has a proximal end and a distal end, and wherein the removable tape comprises a portion which overhangs said proximal end. The presence of an overhanging portion of tape provides means of attachment to the auto feeder.

Preferably, the cassette further comprises a tab attached to the removable tape. Preferably, the tab is flexible and has an adhesive layer. The tab provides particularly advantageous means of attachment. Properties such as flexibility and carrying an adhesive layer allow it to be easily attached to the auto feeder, for example via a spool.

Preferably, the said pack comprises a spool attached to the removable tape. The presence of a spool integrated to the pack dispenses with the need for the feeder to have its own spool, and saves the user from the time consuming and delicate task that is threading the pack end onto t he spool.

Preferably, the pack comprises twenty eight compartments. Such a pack provides a compartment a day for four weeks.

Preferably, the removable tape is sealed to the cassette using waterproof sealing means. Waterproof sealing is useful in keeping the feed, which is, in use, proximate to the water, protected from the ingress of the water, which might cause decay to the food.

Preferably, the elongate strip is coiled. The coiling of the elongate strip confers the advantage of not jutting out, and therefore helps avoid the strip being knocked. The provision of a coiled strip also puts the motor of the auto feeder under less stress - by keeping the doses nearer to the motor, less energy has to be expended in processing each chamber than would be the cases if the doses were arranged in a strip. The invention also comprises pack for carrying feed for aquatic pets, substantially as described herein, with reference to and as illustrated by any combination of the text and /or all but figure 1 of the accompanying drawings.

In a second, broad independent aspect, the invention comprises a method of supplying food to aquatic and/or other creatures comprising the steps of attaching the pack featured in any of the the preceding aspects above to an operative indexing mechanism such as a stepper motor, wherein the indexing mechanism and the cassette are so arranged in relation to each other that in use the indexing movement causes the covering to be pulled from the cassette, revealing an aperture, and causes the cassette to be displaced, such that each indexing movement causes a fresh aperture to be revealed.

The invention also comprises a method for feeding aquatic creatures substantially as described herein with reference to and as illustrated by any appropriate combination of the text and/or all but figure 1 of the accompanying drawings.

In a third broad independent aspect, the invention comprises an apparatus for feeding aquatic creatures comprising a pack according to any of the preceding claims, and a device comprising an operative indexing mechanism such as a stepper motor, wherein the indexing mechanism and the cassette are so arranged in relation to each other that in use the indexing movement causes the covering to be pulled from the cassette, revealing an aperture, and causes the cassette to be displaced, such that each indexing movement causes a fresh aperture to be revealed. The method and apparatus discussed above comprise an effective means of delivering feed portions into an aquatic environment. By pairing the motion of peeling the tape and moving the back in this way, energy is saved, allowing for greater efficiency and longer battery life.

The invention also comprises an apparatus for feeding aquatic creatures substantially as described herein with reference to and as illustrated by any appropriate combination of the text and/or all but figure 1 of the accompanying drawings. In a further independent aspect, the invention provides an automatic feeder for feeding aquatic and/or other creatures comprising means for receiving a pack of the kind defined in any of the preceding aspects which relate to packs, means for displacing a pack whilst peeling back a portion of said tape at regular intervals in order to reveal at each interval an aperture of a pack and thereby allow the contents of a compartment of said pack to fall out of said pack.

In a subsidiary aspect, the feeder comprises a tape-pulling bobbin suitable for attaching to the free end of a tape. This provides for advantageous displacement of the pack whilst revealing the contents of a compartment.

In a subsidiary aspect, the feeder further comprises a track for guiding the pack as it is displaced as the tape is peeled back.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the feeder further comprises a housing and a funnel for receiving the falling contents of a pack; said funnel being part of a hinged portion of said housing. This allows the funnel to be exposed for cleaning if necessary.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the feeder comprises means for releasably attaching to a tape-pulling bobbin. These may for example include push-fit means which attach to the end of a bobbin so that when the push-fit means rotate the bobbin which might be provided as an integral part of the tape instead of necessarily being part of the feeder, the compartments are revealed. This is thought to simplify the user attachment process of the pack onto the feeder. In a further subsidiary aspect, the feeder comprises an operative indexing mechanism.

In a further broad, independent aspect, the invention comprises an apparatus for dispensing a succession of doses comprising a cassette with an in use top, an in use bottom and at least one in use further side, a plurality of chambers situated between the top and the bottom, with each of the chambers being preferably regularly spaced within the cassette, each of the chambers having an aperture running from said chamber to one of the bottom and the further side, and a covering attached to the cassette, said covering being so sized and shaped as to cover the apertures, the covering being so attached to the cassette that it may be partially detached to reveal a second aperture, and then further detached to cumulatively reveal a second aperture and each subsequent aperture.

This new cassette has several advantages. The first is that the provision of a plurality of separate chambers allows the user to control the composition and size of individual doses. An alternative and more likely scenario is that the doses are predetermined and the cassette or cartridge is bought from an external supplier such as an aquatic pet specialist. Moreover, if the dosage has to be varied form chamber to chamber, there is the facility to do this by filling the chambers with different quantities and types of material. Second, the covering of the chambers serves to protect their contents.

In a subsidiary aspect, the cassette has an axis about which it can, in use, rotate, and wherein the chambers are regularly spaced around said axis. A cassette which rotates around an axis is particularly advantageous, from the point of view of saving space - this is important as an aquatic environment, such as fish tanks are often quite small.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the apertures and the covers covering them are situated on the side of the cassette, and the covering may be peeled from the cassette to reveal one or more of the apertures. The side situated apertures and covers are advantageous in that an axis parallel to the axis of the cassette may be set up to peel the cover. The use of parallel axes allows for an apparatus of relative simplicity on which both axes may be mounted on a single planar frame.

Preferably, the in use bottom of each chamber is sloping, the highest point of the sloping being that closest to the cassette axis. The sloping chamber bottom or floor, in combination with the side peeling cassette facilitates the delivery of a given dose once the cover has been peeled from its corresponding aperture.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the apertures and the covers covering them are situated on the bottom of the cassette, and the covering may be peeled from the cassette to reveal one or more of the apertures.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the apparatus further comprises an axle, so sized and shaped as to form a releasable attachment from the cassette. The provision of such an axle allows for the straightforward installation and removal of cassettes.

Preferably, the covering has a free end not attached to the cassette, the free end comprising attachment means.

Preferably, the apparatus further comprises a covering pulling bobbin suitable for attaching to the free end of the covering.

The free end facilitates the attachment of the covering to means such as the covering pulling the bobbin, or merely means for a user to remove the covering from the cassette.

In a further subsidiary aspect, one or more of the chambers is pre-packed with aquatic creature food. The provision of pre-packed chambers (of food or otherwise) provides a means whereby the manufacturer of the cassette can supply a cassette with a plurality of pre-loaded doses of food, which when placed in the context of an auto-feeder device will last for a given, predetermined period of time.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the covering is a film. The use of a film covering allows, in cases where the film is transparent, the inspection of the substance within the chambers.

Second, the provision of film for a cover is the provision of a thin material that may easily be ruptured.

In a further subsidiary aspect, the covering is attached to the cassette by a waterproof adhesive. Waterproof adhesive is advantageous given the proximity of the feeder to water. Indeed in some embodiments, it may be the case that the auto feeder is actually under water. In either case, it ensures that the film does not fall off prematurely and the dose is not delivered early, or lost. In a further subsidiary aspect, the cassette is of an elongate rectangular form, and the chambers are arranged in a linear manner. The advantage of using a cassette of this shape, with linearly arranged chambers, as opposed to those arranged in a circular manner, is that it is very easy for the viewer to see - approximately at least - how many doses remain in the cassette. With each dose dispensed, a cassette with linearly spaced doses will be fed further into one end of the feeder, and perhaps also out of the other end; the position of the cassette vis a vis the rest of the feeder will inform the reader as to how full it is.

Brief description of the figures

The invention will now be described in detail, with reference to the figures, of which: Figure 1 is a side view of a feeding hopper of the prior art, Figure 2 is a side perspective view of an auto feeder of the invention, Figure 3 is a perspective view of the auto feeder, Figure 4 is a perspective view of the auto feeder,

Figure 5 is a top down view of the auto feeder,

Figure 6 is a perspective view of the auto feeder, Figure 7 is a perspective side view of a second embodiment of an auto feeder of the invention,

Figure 8 is a perspective view of a cassette of the invention Figure 9 is perspective view of the cassette, with covering attached

Figure 10 is a perspective view of a second cassette of the invention

Figure 1 1 is a further perspective view of the second cassette.

Figure 12 is a perspective view of a further auto-feeder of the invention.

Figure 13 is a perspective view of a part of a further cassette of the invention.

Figure 14 is a perspective view of a part of a further cassette of the invention.

Figures 15 is a perspective view of an auto-feeder of the invention integrated into the lid of a fish tank.

Figure 16 is a perspective view of a part of a cassette of the invention, along with a partial view of the interior of an auto-feeder of the invention.

Figure 17 is a perspective view of a part of an auto-feeder of the invention, loaded with a cassette of the invention (partial view).

Figure 18 is a feeder of the invention mounted on a lid load with a cassette of the invention.

Figure 19 is a perspective view of the interior of the control means of an auto-feeder of the invention.

Figure 20 is a perspective view of an optical sensor of an auto-feeder of the invention. Detailed description of the preferred embodiments

At figure 2 there is shown an automatic feeder apparatus or "auto feeder", indicated generally at 20. The auto feeder 20 has two principal components, namely the cassette 22 and the feeding mechanism 24. The cassette 22 comprises a body 26, which is made of a waterproof plastics material. The body 26 has an in use top 27 and an in use bottom 28 comprises a number of chambers 29. A cassette 22 can have as many or as few chambers 29 as the manufacturer desires. Each chamber 29 may have placed within it a dose of food, nutrient, medicine, chemicals, aquatic environment treatment or any other substance or combination of substances the user desires to place within it. Entry to each chamber 29 is via apertures 50. A preferred number of chambers 29 is twenty eight, one for each day of the notional month; where the feeding mechanism 24 is set up to administer a daily dose, the cassette 22 will therefore last a month. The chambers 29 have a covering 30, which in preferred embodiments takes the form of a single strip of film. The covering 30 is in some preferred embodiments attached to the chambers 29 using a waterproof sealant 31 , but other means of attachment, notably releasable - reattachable attachment means such as hook and loop material and press studs may be of use, especially in an embodiment where the cassette 22 is reusable. In particularly preferred embodiments, the cover 30 is heat-sealed to the cassette 22. In particularly preferred embodiments, the covering 30 acts to hermetically seal the individual chambers 29 of the cassette 22, with the seal being broken only when the covering 30 is peeled off. The use of separate chambers 29 advantageously stops cross-contamination.

The cassette 22 in figure 2 is of a rectangular shape, and the chambers 29 are linearly spaced, being separated by internal walls 32. The covering 30 of the cassette 22 has an extended end 35 which may be attached to the auto feeder 20, in order that the cassette 22 can be moved adjacent auto feeder 20 and, cover 30 can be progressively peeled off. The cassette 22 does not have chambers 29 along its entire length, and that end which does not feature chambers may conveniently be used as a handle 33.

In the embodiment of figure 2, the covering 30 peels from the in use bottom 28 of the cassette 22. The feeding mechanism 24 comprises a frame 40 which here is of a "single box" design, which has a generally cuboid shape, but should not be considered limited to such as shape, and may comprise more than one such box. The frame 40 comprises a trench 42 so sized and shaped as to receive an elongate, cuboid cassette 22 of the shown type. In this embodiment a solenoid 44 is connected to a power source (not shown), which given the proximity in use of the auto feeder 20 to water will advantageously be a battery cell, rather than mains power. The solenoid 44, which may advantageously be part of a stepper motor, drives a torque drive 46. In use, the torque drive 46 produces an indexing motion which serves to move the cartridge 22 in the auto feeder 20. Extended end 33 of covering 30 is attached to torque drive 46 via cavity 48. When the solenoid 44 triggers an indexing motion the cassette 22 is pulled along trench 42, via the action of the torque drive 46 on extended end 33. The extended end 33 is pulled through cavity 48 in such a way as to pull covering 30 from the aperture 50 of a chamber 29. By the same motion, the aperture 50 is placed over chute 49, with the result that the contents of that chamber 29 fall down the chute 49, into an aquatic environment such as a fish tank (not shown), placed below. By varying the size of the chute, 49 and the extent of the indexing motion, a plurality of doses may be delivered on a single occasion. The used covering 30 can be removed from widening 52 of cavity 48. The cassette 22 can easily be removed from the trench 42 by pulling it out using the handle 33.

Figures 4-6 show the protruding axle 54 of torque drive 46. This allows for manual winding of the drive 46. The drive may either be exposed, as here, or encased.

Advantageously, the indexing motion may be programmed to take place with a user- desired level of regularity; for example, it may be programmed to deliver a daily dose of food, or a twice daily dose of medicine. A processor with a user interface may be utilised by the user to make the desired adjustments. Alternatively, mechanical switching means may be utilised. A digital or analogue display may be added to inform the user of the regularity of the indexing motion.

Alternatively, the auto feeder 20 may deliver a daily dose only - and be completely nonprogrammable. This has the advantage of being simple and cheaper.

The mechanism 24, which is shown in cross-sectional view at figures 2-6 may

advantageously be encased in a waterproof material - a plastics material such as polypropylene is particularly suitable. At figure 7 there is an alternative embodiment of the auto feeder 70. The auto feeder 70 comprises a carousel-type cassette 71 , and an indexing device 72. The circular cylindrical cassette 71 has a top 73, a bottom 74 and a side 75. The side is covered by cover 76. The cassette 71 can be rotated about axle 77, and in use is rotated by the turning of secondary bobbin 78 which is attached by the user to free end 79 of cover 76.

The indexing motion of secondary bobbin 78 reveals apertures 80 of chambers 81 , which in this embodiment, are located in the side of 75 of the cassette 71. The apertures 80 are best viewed at figures 8 and 9.

At figure 8 there is shown a cassette 71 without a wrapper. The chambers 81 are arranged symmetrically about central aperture 82, which may receive an axle 77. The floor 83 of each chamber 81 is sloping, with its in use higher end nearest the central aperture 82. In use, the cover 76 (shown in figure 9) is peeled off, and the contents of the chambers 81 which have exposed apertures 80 as a result of the peeling, fall out. In this embodiment, the cassette 71 also has loading apertures 84 in the top 73. In use, the top 73 has a lid 85, which may be sealed on or may be releasably attachable. In other embodiments, such as the one shown at figures 10 and 1 1, each chamber 81 has only a single aperture 81 , which may be preloaded and then sealed by cover 76.

The auto feeder 20, 70 may be arranged adjacent an aquatic environment by virtue of supplementary attachment means, such as magnets. Alternatively, the device may float on top of or partially in the water, by virtue of the lightness of its construction. A further embodiment of the feeding mechanism 152 is the auto feeder 150, which is generally shown at figure 12. The auto feeder 150 can be a discrete device, or can be an integrally formed piece of or attachable to a fish tank lid. The former is shown at figure 15, whilst a standalone version is shown in figure 12. This latter version is placed on top of an aquatic pet environment such as a fish tank. Contact with the tank is governed by a plurality of feet, which may be fabricated from rubber or the like. These are not shown in the diagrams. The auto feeder is preferably made from plastics materials makes them well suited to the protection of the internal electonics and mechanics of the auto feeder 150; the high level of water resistance exhibited by such materials. Translucent and white plastics material is particularly preferred, because it is easy for the user to see when it is dirty, and thus to perform a cleaning operation on it.

As in previous embodiments, the feeding mechanism 152 comprises a frame 154. In this embodiment, the frame 154 is roughly of a cuboid shape, with rounded corners such as 156, which increases the shock resistance of the feeder, helping it stay intact when, for example, it is dropped. The frame 154 has an in use top 158 and in use bottom 160, a pair of parallel longer sides 162 and a pair of parallel shorter ends 164. A channel 166 runs between the two ends 164. The channel 166 is so sized and shaped as to be able to receive a pack 300 of the type illustrated in figure 13. In cross section, the channel 166 is an inverted T shape, with two notched grooves 170 through which the pack 300 runs. The channel 166 connects with a chamber 174. The chamber 174 comprises a recess in the frame 154 of the auto feeder 150. The chamber 174 has a top entrance 178 which joins the channel 166, comprising an aperture through which, in use, the feed is passed. The chamber 174 further has at its bottom an exit comprising an aperture 182 leading to a chute 184 through which the feed drops into a fish tank or the like. In preferred embodiments chamber 176 comprises four sidewalls including sidewall 186. The sidewalls 186 may be arranged in a perpendicular fashion relative the top entrance 170 and bottom exit 182 although they may be curved, tapered, slanted or otherwise so orientated as to facilitate the passage of the feed through the chamber 174. In preferred embodiments, as here, the chamber floor 188 may be arranged to form a funnel 188A feeding said chute 184. The sidewalls 186 of the chamber 184 are in this embodiment formed in the following ways; a first sidewall 190 is formed at the body of the auto feeder 150 whilst the remaining walls 186 are part of a door 194, said door 194 being attached to said frame 154 via a hinge 196. Preferably the door 194 may be retained in a closed position, by retaining or locking means, such as a lock or latch. The door 194 in this embodiment further comprises a locking arm 198 on its hinge which advantageously prevents the peeling of removable tape 316 from cassette 302 during loading. The door 194 in preferred embodiments comprises the chute 184. The door 194 and chute 184 may advantageously be formed of a single piece of moulded plastic and may preferably be removable for cleaning. Alternatively they may be separate parts attachable to one another via for example a clipping motion. The door 194 stops the user from accessing the spool 208 when the feed is underway, thus ensuring the safety of the user.

Opening the door 194 is done by rotating the said door 194 about its hinge 196, said hinge 196 being connected via tabs 202 to the frame 154 via tab receiving apertures 204. Optionally the door 194 comprises a seal 195 around its frame contacting edge 197.

Door 194, when opened, allows access to a secondary chamber 206 in which is located a spool 208 in this embodiment, or, in other embodiments, a spindle on which a spool may be mounted. This secondary chamber 206 is defined by the walls of the frame 154 and the door 194 and is divided from the chute 184 by internal wall 199. This secondary chamber 206 must be of sufficient size to allow the rotation of the spool 208 and the subsequent wrapping round the spool 208 of removable tape 316 from cassette 302. The spool 208 is cylindrical in shape, and has a recess, allowing it to be mounted on said spindle 212 (not shown). The spool 208 comprises a groove 214 inside of which the end of the removable tape 316 may be attached.

The door 194 may be clear or opaque, although translucent or transparent plastics material is thought of to be the most advantageously easy to clean option. The door 194 also features a reed switch which is in communication with feeding mechanism control means 220. When door 194 is open, the auto feeder 150 is paused. Conversely, when the door 194 is shut the reed switch 218 sends a signal to the control means 220 to resume the feeding process. In this embodiment, control means 220 are integrated into the auto feeder 150 itself; remote control means may be envisaged. In this embodiment control means 220 has an interface 222 which here comprises a membrane keypad 223 with a plurality of tactile switches linked to the motor 246 and gearing 260 in order to control them. This linking is shown in figure 19. The membrane keypad 223 provides a waterproof seal which prevents damage to the interior of the auto-feeder 150; water could quite easily flow in if standard keyboard means were used, for example. This configuration has the special advantage of being easy for a user to understand, and being waterproof via the membrane. In this embodiment switching the feeder on by pressing the on/off switch 224 leads to the emission of three rapid beeps and an LED flash when provided visual display means 226 - here integrated into the on/off switch - and audio display means 228 (not shown). In certain preferred embodiments the on/off switch 224 doubles as an auto feed start/stop button; the user would hold down the on/off switch 224 for a longer period of time to turn the auto feeder 150 on or off, and tap it relatively quickly to start or stop the feeding process. The membrane keypad 223 further comprises the automatic feed controls; a switch 232 which is used to set dose frequency and a further switch 234 which is used to select dose quantity. A seven segment display can be used for selection recognition. Alternative switching means may be provided, including a separate dial for each of dose frequency and dose quantity or one mode selection dial giving a variety of feed duty cycles. The dose frequency control 232 allows the user to set the number of doses given during a particular time period - which here is most usefully the period of a day. The dose quantity control 234 controls the amount of feed, which here is measured in number of feed compartments processed during a particular dose. The auto feeder 150 further comprises memory which stores the last set feed settings in order advantageously to limit the number of times the user will need to set the duty cycle. Where buttons or keys are used to control dose frequency switch 232 and dose quantity switch 234, feedback, either visual, auditory or both will be given so that the user is made aware of the quantity or frequency of dosing which he or she is programming into the auto feeder 150. One preferred means of auditory feedback is to increase the number of beeps given by an audio display means 228 as dose frequency or dose quantity is increased.

The controls further comprise an auto-feed start/stop button 240. In a preferred embodiment, the function of the start/stop button 240 is to start and stop the automatic feed cycle. Starting the cycle sets an internal clock and the first feed occurs immediately after the clock starts; the user is therefore required to start the cycle at an appropriate time. Alternatively, the setting of a time could be done before the first feed. Such a functionality might involve the setting of a clock (not shown), and at a given time on the clock, feed will be introduced to the aquatic environment. The start/stop button 240 may optionally perform a tensioning function, taking up slack on the cassette 300 to provide the user with confidence that the cassette 300 is wound onto the auto-feeder 150. A signal to the user that the auto-feeder is on could be made by lighting up continuously or intermittently; conversely, an absence of light communicates that the auto-feeder 150 is off. In one preferred configuration the LED 226 might light up every 16 seconds to signify that the power is on. The LED 226 could in preferred embodiments change colour to signify that an auto-feed is in progress. An additional feature which may advantageously be included is a manual feed function, which may be triggered by a supplementary button (not shown) or other such control or by pressing one or more pre-existing buttons in a distinctive way. The manual feed button could deliver one compartment's worth of feed per press. The manual feed function enables the user to feed at any time during the cycle or in the event that the cycle has not been set. The manual feed function does not reset the timer.

The auto-feeder 150 further comprises an end of cassette recognition function, when this is triggered auditory and/or visual display means 226 could sound an alarm to indicate that the user needs to load the food pack 300. In preferred embodiments the user will be able to utilise the manual feed function to load a food pack 300. Alternatively the cassette 302 could be fed in. Use of the manual feed function could in any event signify reload in order that the auto-feeder 150 will recognise the need to feed in accord with the prior cycle. If no such reload occurs the auto-feeder 150 will continue to raise the alarm periodically.

The control means 220 may preferably incorporate a function whereby auto-feeder device 150 will be stopped in response to its jamming. This can be achieved via a motor clutch or via software detection of a delay in registration of an aspect of the cassette 300, such as its holes 326. If after a known period (based on a worst case motor speed) a hole 326 is not detected then the device 150 will stop and produce a warning signal via the alarm 244 to the user. In preferred embodiments the speed of the feed may be controlled to advantageously ensure that the optical sensor 250 registers the holes 326 or absence thereof and further to advantageously prevent too much peeling away of the removable tape 316. The optical sensor 250 may advantageously comprise an ultra violet filter 251 in order to improve the light registration threshold and thereby deal with ambient light.

The reed switch 218 on the door 194 ensures that the manual feed function only works when the door 104 is closed. This door detection mechanism may advantageously comprise a hall effect sensor. The dose frequency 232 and dose quantity 234 buttons work whether the door 194 is open or not.

In the in-use bottom 160 of the auto-feeder 150 is housed a battery compartment 252. At figure 15 however, a battery pack 252 is shown in the side of the device. The auto-feeder 150 may, in preferred embodiments be powered by a pair of AA cells. The cells power motor 246 and gearing 260 the spindle 212 and / or the spool 208. The use of cells is much preferred given the in use proximity of the auto-feeder 150 to water and further because the tank to which the auto-feeder 150 may in use be attached may not necessarily be close to a power source. Optionally, an alarm 244 can sound when the power source is running low.

At Figure 13 there is a pack 300. The pack 300 is a container for feeding aquatic creatures with given doses of feed, which it contains. Pack 300 comprises a cassette 302 comprising a cassette body which may, as in Figures 13 and 14, take the form of an elongate strip 309 which may be presented in an extended linear fashion or alternatively may be coiled up. The cassette may be fashioned from plastics. In the present embodiment the pack 300 is formed by a moulding process, but other techniques such as stamping or extruding may be preferable. The function of the pack 300 is to provide a vessel for feed for aquatic and/or other creatures. As such, the cassette 302 comprises a series of feed compartments 306 for housing the said feed. These feed compartments, or chambers, are multiple in number and are situated along the elongate strip 309 of the cassette 302. In preferred embodiments there are spaces 308 between the feed compartments 306. In this embodiment each of the feed compartments is identical in volume to all of the other feed compartments 306. Whilst there are advantages to this configuration, detailed above, this naturally need not be the case - non-identical feed compartments are envisaged. At Figure 13, it is shown that the feed compartments 306 have a roughly cuboid interior with a flat bottom 310. Advantageously the sidewalls 312 of the feed compartments 306 are tapered towards the bottom of the said compartments 306. This feature allows for the quick ejection of a dose of feed. This taper is illustrated well at Figure 14. Also at Figure 14 the elongate strip 309 part of the cassette body 304 is relatively thin - i.e. less than 5mm thick. The feed compartments 306 project from the elongate strip 309. Each feed compartment 306 has an aperture 314 through which food can pass in and out. The aperture 314 is in these embodiments are rectangular in shape and the area of the aperture 314 of each mouth is identical. The feed compartments 306 are evenly spaced along the elongate strip 309.

The pack 300 further comprises removable tape 316 and overlays the apertures 314 in such a way as to prevent the passage of feed and in out of the feed compartments 306. The removable tape 316 is attached to the elongate strip 309 so as to separately hermetically seal the aperture 314 of each feed compartment 306. The sealing of the removal tape 316 to the elongate strip 309 may be done with an appropriate waterproof sealing means, such as heat sealing or via the utilisation of a separate waterproof adhesive. In use the removable tape 316 may be progressively removed from the elongate strip 309 at a given rate to reveal a given number of feed compartments 306 and thereby to deliver an appropriate dose of feed to an aquatic environment. Because each feed compartment 306 is separately sealed, it is possible to open a first feed compartment 306 whilst the other feed compartments 306 remain sealed. At Figure 13 the removable tape 316 is shown to have an end 318 which in this embodiment is in the form of a loose tab. The end 318 may be attached to a spool 208 as in Figure 17. Here, the end 318 is threaded through the recess 210 which runs through the middle of said spool 208 and as the spool 208 rotates the end rotates with it, simultaneously pulling the pack 300 through the channel 166 in the auto-feeder 150 and unpeeling the removable tape 316, thus exposing a feed compartment 306 and allowing the feed to drop out and into the chute 184 below. The empty compartments 306 are then shunted away from the chute 184, being displaced by full compartments 306. In use, the pack 300 is loaded into the auto-feeder 150 with the substantially flat removable tape 316 bearing side 320 facing down. At Figure 14, the removable tape 316 can be seen to bear an extended tab 322 which may optionally carry adhesive which provided a longer strip for interaction with the spool 208.

Preferably the feed compartments 306 are arranged in a single row. Each pack 300 has at least one edge section 324, with a top 325 and a bottom 327 corresponding to the equivalents on the elongate strip 309. Preferably the edge section 324 is thinner than the rest of the elongate strip 309 of which it forms a part. This edge section 324

advantageously is fitted with a plurality of holes 326 or perforations. The holes 326 are spaced at regular intervals along the edge section 324 of the pack 300 as the pack 300 is fed through the auto-feeder 150. The holes 326 are read by an optical sensor 250, which may comprise a lens 251. Each of the said holes 326 passes through the edge section 324. By recognising the passage of the holes 326, the auto feeder 150 can measure the number of doses used or remaining, or administer the size of a particular dose. Advantageously, a non perforated section 329 may be situated at the end of a row of holes; this section triggers the end of cassette recognition function. More advantageously the final pair of apertures will be different from the other holes 326 in order that the auto-feeder 150 can alert the user in advance of the next feed in the cycle.

Claims

Claims
1. A pack containing feed for aquatic creatures comprising a cassette for operation with an automatic feeder, said cassette comprising a cassette body, said cassette further comprising a plurality of discrete feed compartments, each feed compartment having an aperture located in the base of said cassette, said pack further comprising a quantity of removable tape covering a succession of said discrete compartments, said tape being arranged to block the passage of feed out of the compartment when covering said apertures and allowing feed, in use, to fall out of said pack as a portion of said tape covering said apertures is peeled back; said removable tape being so attached to said cassette body as to separately hermetically seal the aperture of each compartment.
2. A pack according to claim 1 , wherein said compartments contain feed in granular form.
3. A pack according to either claim 1 or claim 2, wherein said pack incorporates at regular intervals compartments which contain chemicals for the treatment of the aquatic environment and/or the fish.
4. A pack according to either claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the cassette further comprises an elongate strip, the feed compartments being integrally formed with the strip, and wherein the apertures are provided in the base of said strip.
5. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the cassette further comprises a space located at an upper region of said packs located between each of said compartments.
6. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the pack is in the form of a strip which is coiled to be housed, in use, in a dispensing housing.
7. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, with at least one edge section located laterally from said apertures, the edge section having a top face and a bottom face.
8. A pack according to claim 7, wherein said edge section incorporates a row of holes, each of the holes passing through the said edge section from the top face to the bottom face, the holes being evenly spaced.
9. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, the cassette has a proximal end and a distal end, and wherein the removable tape comprises a portion which overhangs said proximal end.
10. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the cassette further comprises a tab attached to the removable tape.
1 1. A pack according to claim 10, wherein the tab is flexible and has an adhesive layer.
12. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said pack comprises a spool attached to the removable tape.
13. A pack according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the removable tape is sealed to the cassette using waterproof sealing means.
14. A pack containing feed for aquatic creatures, substantially as described herein, with reference to and as illustrated by any combination of the text and /or all but figure 1 of the accompanying drawings.
15. A method of supplying feed to aquatic creatures comprising the steps of attaching the pack featured in any of the claims above to an operative indexing mechanism such as a stepper motor, wherein the indexing mechanism and the cassette are so arranged in relation to each other that in use the indexing movement causes the covering to be pulled from the cassette, revealing an aperture, and causes the cassette to be displaced, such that each indexing movement causes a fresh aperture to be revealed.
16. An method of supplying feed to aquatic creatures substantially as described herein with reference to and as illustrated by any appropriate combination of the text and/or all but figure 1 of the accompanying drawings.
17. An automatic feeder for feeding aquatic creatures comprising means for receiving a pack of the kind defined in any of claims 1 to 14, means for displacing a pack whilst peeling back a portion of said tape at regular intervals in order to reveal at each interval an aperture of a pack and thereby allow the contents of a compartment of said pack to fall out of said pack.
18. A feeder according to claim 17, comprising a tape-pulling bobbin suitable for attaching to the free end of a tape.
19. A feeder according to either claim 17 or claim 18, further comprising a track for guiding the pack as it is displaced as the tape is peeled back.
20. A feeder according to any one of claims 17 to 19, further comprising a housing and a funnel for receiving the falling contents of a pack; said funnel being part of a hinged portion of said housing.
21. A feeder according to claim 17, comprising means for releasably attaching to a tape-pulling bobbin.
22. A feeder according to claims 17 to 21, comprising an operative indexing mechanism.
23. An automatic feeder for feeding aquatic creatures substantially as described herein with reference to and as illustrated by any appropriate combination of the text and/or all but figure 1 of the accompanying drawings.
PCT/GB2011/051243 2010-06-30 2011-06-30 Aquatic creature feeding cassette, and automatic feeder WO2012001422A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

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GB1011005.4 2010-06-30
GB201011005A GB201011005D0 (en) 2010-06-30 2010-06-30 Auto feeder

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GB201221525A GB2494329B (en) 2010-06-30 2011-06-30 Aquatic creature feeding cassette, and automatic feeder

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WO (1) WO2012001422A1 (en)

Cited By (3)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
CN102550468A (en) * 2012-03-23 2012-07-11 陆燊 Automatic feeding trough for fish bowl
EP2923567A1 (en) * 2014-03-26 2015-09-30 Pfeiffs Feeder AB Control unit for game or fish feeder
US9567126B2 (en) 2014-07-22 2017-02-14 Garrett Marvel Wilson Pet food apparatus

Citations (6)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US1989298A (en) * 1933-05-20 1935-01-29 Leonard C Tingley Feeding device
US4249483A (en) * 1979-09-06 1981-02-10 Sobky Reda Z Automatic moist pet food server
US4981106A (en) * 1988-12-01 1991-01-01 Osamu Nagatomo Automatic pet feeder
JPH0795833A (en) * 1993-09-30 1995-04-11 Matsushita Electric Ind Co Ltd Automatic feeder
US5709166A (en) 1996-03-08 1998-01-20 Evans; Cheryl Rae Refrigerated automatic fish feeder
US6467431B1 (en) 2000-07-07 2002-10-22 Andrew M Stietzel Fish feeding device

Patent Citations (6)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US1989298A (en) * 1933-05-20 1935-01-29 Leonard C Tingley Feeding device
US4249483A (en) * 1979-09-06 1981-02-10 Sobky Reda Z Automatic moist pet food server
US4981106A (en) * 1988-12-01 1991-01-01 Osamu Nagatomo Automatic pet feeder
JPH0795833A (en) * 1993-09-30 1995-04-11 Matsushita Electric Ind Co Ltd Automatic feeder
US5709166A (en) 1996-03-08 1998-01-20 Evans; Cheryl Rae Refrigerated automatic fish feeder
US6467431B1 (en) 2000-07-07 2002-10-22 Andrew M Stietzel Fish feeding device

Cited By (4)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
CN102550468A (en) * 2012-03-23 2012-07-11 陆燊 Automatic feeding trough for fish bowl
EP2923567A1 (en) * 2014-03-26 2015-09-30 Pfeiffs Feeder AB Control unit for game or fish feeder
WO2015144763A1 (en) * 2014-03-26 2015-10-01 Nordic Gamekeeper Ab Control unit for game or fish feeder
US9567126B2 (en) 2014-07-22 2017-02-14 Garrett Marvel Wilson Pet food apparatus

Also Published As

Publication number Publication date Type
GB2494329A (en) 2013-03-06 application
GB2494329B (en) 2014-11-12 grant
GB201011005D0 (en) 2010-08-18 grant

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