The regional Manitoba Ag Days indoor farm machinery show in Brandon takes place every January, but isn’t exactly known as the kind of event where major manufacturers debut new machines — with one notable exception.
Versatile, whose manufacturing plant is just two hours down the highway, has embraced the event as a place to show its new machines to a local audience.
“Ag days is always a good show for us; it’s our home market,” explains Adam Reid, Versatile’s marketing manager. “We’re well known here, so it makes sense for us to launch new products here. Because it’s the Brandon show, because it’s so close to home, we wanted to make sure we had a really good presence here this year.”
Big among the new products the brand debuted is the RT 520, the successor to the firm’s outgoing RT 490 combine. The 520 gets some tweaks to the same basic threshing body used on the 490, such as a larger clean grain elevator.
“[It] will actually help improve capacity especially in wet crops,” Reid says. “We also have a new feeder chain system on the front.”
But the main improvements are up front where the operator lives.
“The feedback from customers has been good on the threshing,” says Reid. “But they really wanted more operator comfort, especially with the amount of time you spend in there. So in addition to making the cab bigger, we’ve made it quieter.”
The RT 520 cab is about 30 per cent larger than on the previous model and it gets a more comfortable environment with a more ergonomic control layout.
“All the changes the customers have been asking us for have now been integrated into the 520,” Reid says. “We’ve also increased the lighting kit by more than two and a half times. So for someone jumping out of an RT 490 and into a 520, it’s almost a night and day difference.”
Versatile has had a long-time relationship with Cummins, so the RT 520 will get that brand’s 12-litre QSG six-cylinder diesel for a power plant.
“Versatile has been in a partnership with Cummins for 52 years now,” Reid notes. “When we looked at what our dealers were used to working on and what the demands were, Cummins had the right engine for us. It’s got the right mix of power and fuel economy. We probably have more power in this combine than we actually need. We’ve never had a farmer complain to us about the power.”
The new combine sticks with the Versatile philosophy of being simple, reliable and easy to maintain, according to Reid. He notes that the brand’s evaluation showed that the most difficult drive belt to change required only a little more than an hour of downtime. And he adds the overall design is intended to accommodate in-field repair and maintenance.
“2018 will be a limited release,” Reid says. “Versatile tends to approach all our new products with a little more caution at the outset, just to make sure we’re providing the right product to the market.”
The combine wasn’t the only thing Versatile took to Brandon to catch farmers’ eyes. A one-off 365 tractor painted in black was also there to celebrate 25 years of front-wheel assist tractor production at the Winnipeg plant.
It isn’t the first time Versatile has offered tractors with a unique paint scheme. Its limited production 50th anniversary four-wheel-drive tractors painted in a “legacy” themed livery easily sold out almost before the program was widely publicized.
Says Reid: “When you say Versatile, people think of four-wheel drives. But we do have a 25-year legacy of building front-wheel assist tractors as well. What we did for the 25th anniversary is one tractor. It’s done in black paint with a silver fleck in it, of course 25 years being a silver anniversary. We’re just doing one right now, but if there’s demand we might build a few more.”