SASKATOON -- A group of researchers spent the growing season studying how Saskatchewan farmers move.

Using an exoskeleton and movement sensors, the University of Saskatchewan researchers tracked the amount of pressure farmers are putting on their joints and back.

“The idea of an exoskeleton is to make work easier,” said Catherine Trask, a professor at the U of S and Canada Research Chair in Ergonomics.

“We can see how hard they’re working, how far they’re bending while shoveling grain, for example.”

The exoskeleton is strapped around the chest and functions similar to a mouse trap, with two levers and a spring in between.

“When you compress the levers together it stores energy, or force – and that force helps you return back up to standing,” Trask explained.

Trask is in the process of crunching the numbers stored in the movement sensors, which were strapped onto the farmers’ legs during the study.

The data will reveal whether wearing an exoskeleton can make manual labour easier. If so, it could mean Saskatchewan farmers could stay out on their fields for longer.

Exoskeletons are already used by workers on assembly lines, but there is little research done about farmers wearing the equipment, according to Trask.

“We know that farmers are far more likely to have back pain, than folks in other occupations,” Trask said.

She aims to have the data findings, gathered from 15 Saskatchewan farms, released next year.