Roto Thresh Combine Harvester

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Fred and Bill Streich with Roto Thresh

A fresh way to thresh — Manitoba farmers put a “revolutionary spin” on combine design

The Roto Thresh was the first combine harvester to use a spinning drum to separate grain from chaff and straw. Rotary separation is now common in combine harvesters, but in the 1950s when Manitoba farmers William Streich, Frederick Streich, and Frank McBain built their first prototype, it was an innovative departure. The “sieveless chaffer,” as it was first called, underwent further development through the University of Saskatchewan and in 1968 the Western Roto Thresh Manufacturing Company was launched.

The first Roto Thresh combine harvester rolled off the production line in Saskatoon in 1974, offering higher harvesting capacity and reduced grain loss. Only fifty machines were built, however, before production ceased in 1978.

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