Versatile enters North American combine market

A well-known Canadian name in Prairie farm machinery has become the first new brand of agricultural combine on this continent in 14 years.

Versatile, a division of Winnipeg’s Buhler Industries best known for its farm tractors, launched its RT490 rotary combine Wednesday at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina.

The combines, made in Russia by Buhler’s parent firm, Rostselmash, will be introduced this year in Western Canada and the northern-tier states of the U.S. before a full North American roll-out, said Adam Reid, Versatile’s director of marketing.

This week’s launch marks the first new brand of combine in North America since Claas and Caterpillar brought over the Lexion brand in 1998.

The company is "well aware" of the challenges in entering this new market and has "realistic expectations" of how many units it can move in its first year, Reid said in an interview.

Rostselmash, which makes combines at Rostov-on-Don, near Russia’s border on the eastern edge of Ukraine, has telegraphed its plans to introduce a combine line in Canada since it bought controlling interest in Buhler in 2007.

The RT490, the lone Versatile model so far, runs on a 490-hp Cummins QSX 11.9-litre engine and features a 340-bushel grain tank and "unique" rotating concave rotary threshing system.

"A 360-degree concave counter rotates to the rotor for increased capacity, better productivity and reduced loss," Versatile said in a release Tuesday. "This concave ensures that the entire thresher and separator area is utilized."

A four-stage feeder house with an inclined chamber replaces the traditional style of feeder housing with four feeding beaters, for a "considerable increase in processing stability and combine productivity" by allowing a uniform layer of material to enter the rotor, the company said.

The new model has been tested already overseas and on over 2,000 acres in Canada and the U.S., Reid said, noting "nearly every crop grown in North America has been tested including cereal crops, corn, pulse crops and rice."

The Versatiles include North American tires and a different style of seating than their Russian counterparts, Reid said. The Cummins engines are also a relatively recent development in Rostselmash’s product lines, featured in its Acros models.

New air drill

The Versatile logo will also make its debut on the company’s first new models of air drills since Buhler bought Vegreville, Alta.-based Ezee-On Manufacturing last year.

The Versatile ML series, with the ML930 and ML950 models, will be available in three- and five-section configurations ranging from 40 to 70 feet and features in-cab seed furrow selection.

"Unlike traditional parallel link drills, the ML series does not rely on hydraulics to maintain a constant seeding depth, packing pressure or shank trip force," the company said Tuesday.

"Frame height is adjustable up or down to increase or decrease packing pressure, which allows operators to pass through soft areas and over harder knolls while maintaining consistent and precise seeding capabilities."

The ML models are "able to maintain seeding depth, packing pressure and shank tip force without hydraulic cylinders on each shank, meaning that the tractor requirement, in both horsepower and hydraulic, is less than comparable existing parallel link drills," Reid said.

Related stories:
Buhler to buy Alta. seeding, tillage tool maker, Feb. 8, 2011
Buhler relaunches Versatile tractor brand, Oct. 30, 2008

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