Peter Pakosh was co-founder of Versatile Manufacturing Ltd., and is credited with many inventions and equipment innovations including the modern-day grain auger. He is considered an innovator in the field of agricultural machinery on a level with John Deere and Cyrus McCormick.
Born in Canora, Saskatchewan on June 11, 1911, Pakosh was the second eldest of twelve children of Polish immigrants Emil and Claudia Pakosz. From an early age, Peter loved to work on farm machinery and at 15, his father bought a steam-threshing rig and assigned Peter to its upkeep and operation. In 1935, Peter’s father paid a cattle buyer $5 to take his son to Winnipeg where he pursued studies in mechanical engineering.
In 1936, he married his wife; Adeline who continued to work while Peter remained in university. Four years later, they moved to Toronto where Peter was hired as a draftsman at Massey-Harris. Peter had an idea for an augur-type grain conveyor and asked for a promotion into the design department. With his promotion denied, Peter built a prototype grain augur in the basement of his home in 1945. After much interest from farmers, Peter decided to build 10 more augurs but lacked the money to buy more materials. Adeline had been saving for a fur coat but instead gave the money to Peter, who built and sold all 10 grain augers.
Pakosh and his brother-in-law Roy Robinson, a machinist, built a field-sprayer next. In 1947 with the design of two machines complete, the two started Hydraulic Engineering Co. By 1953, the company relocated to Winnipeg to be closer to the agricultural market. Soon after, the company introduced a popular self-propelled swather then diversified into tractors and other farm equipment. Their formula was simply build basic machines that did the job well at a reasonable price.
In 1963, the company officially incorporated as Versatile Mfg. Ltd., and one year later, they built a new head office and factory in Fort Garry that became the largest swather production facility in the world.
In 1966, they introduced the first four-wheel drive tractors and then became the first company in the world to mass-produce articulated four-wheel drive tractors. They sold for less than $10,000, half the cost of others, and gained the reputation as being affordable and easy to fix.
By 1976, the Winnipeg-based firm had over 1,300 employees, more than $100 million in annual sales and it was then that Peter and Roy decided to sell their stake in Versatile and retire.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers selected Pakosh as one of “100 Significant Contributors to the Mechanization of Agriculture and Construction” and was inducted as a pioneer into the Manitoba Manufacturers’ Hall of Fame.