A researcher at the Technical University, Delft, designed an edible toy for pigs. Beatrijs Voorneman (MSc) designed a pile of differently shaped layers of various edible materials, made for rooting pleasure, and called the ‘Sproot’. It also makes sounds when a pile is dropped. Eventually the layers will be eaten and destroyed, but it should be able to last for three months.
Originally, Beatrijs Voorneman (MSc) wanted to design children’s toys. Her thesis supervisor, Dr Pieter Desmet (Industrial Design Engineering), had another proposal. Wageningen UR Livestock Research was looking for a distraction for pigs in the farming industry. “I’m not going to design for pigs,” was Voorneman’s initial reaction, regarding the offer as something of an insult. But on second thought, the idea didn’t’ seem so absurd. Piglets and children might be more alike than previously assumed.
Preliminary work Voorneman started her project by studying the pig sector for 6 months. She joined a veterinarian on his monthly visitations to pig farms in the South of the Netherlands and noticed that most of the farmers were interested in the pigs’ growth, health and reproduction, but often did not have so many distraction materials in the pens. Voorneman noticed that pigs are very curious and opportunistic, but also that they easily became bored. She identified rooting as the most typical behaviour, in which the pigs explore and plow the soil and their surroundings with their hypersensitive snouts.
Rooting pleasure Consequently, Voorneman’s design – a pile of differently shaped layers of various edible materials – was made for rooting pleasure. Playfully named the Sproot, it also makes sounds when a pile is dropped. And the pigs like that, too. Eventually the layers will be eaten and destroyed, as is everything else in the pig pen, but if it lasts for at least three months then that’s sufficient, because the pigs will have ‘moved on’ to something else by then.
Other Dutch ideas A few years ago, also some attempts were made by the Farmers Union (LTO Nederland) in the Netherlands in cooperation with the Environmental agency and the animal welfare groups. LTO asked five product designers to design toys for pigs. Among the designs were a candy chain to chew on, a cone that works as a gobstopper that gives the pigs a different flavour every time they lick it, a wall that contains hidden material and the Pig Roulette, a small feed silo with a tiny wheel. Most designs however demand quite an investment to introduce them in practice, so most ideas are still in the design phase.