Celebrations mark 30-year partnership for Norfolk beet harvester specialist

The biennial J Riley Agri Vervaet sugar beet harvester demonstration took place in late January, attracting farmers and contractors from across the UK. David Williams was there.

J Riley Agri sugar beet harvester
The J Riley beet harvester demonstration featured the current range of six-row harvesters plus a new Vervaet Beet Eater Chaser, a classic 17-tonne harvester and the Quad four-wheel slurry applicator.

The event at Alderford in north Norfolk featured the latest Vervaet four-and six-wheel self-propelled harvesters, a self-propelled beet chaser, a Quad slurry applicator, plus a classic Vervaet harvester as part of celebrations marking 30 years of the partnership between the manufacturer and J Riley Agri.

Turbine primary cleaners upgraded

Vervaet and J Riley Agri
Pictured with a commemorative banner are (l-r) Vervaet commercial director Jonathan Hoekman and managing director Robin Vervaet, with J Riley Agri retired managing director Jeremy Riley and current managing director Matt Carse who took over the business last year.

J Riley Agri managing director Matt Carse said he was delighted by the number of farmers and contractors who made time to attend. “I thought many wouldn’t come this year due to having their own beet still to lift late in this challenging season. However, people made time to attend from across the Eastern Counties and further afield, including representatives from Spain, Czech Republic and Poland. Key attractions were the rollerbed primary-cleaning system which was demonstrated on six-wheel Beet Eater Evo 625, and four-wheel Q-616 machines. The new table frame design: introduced with the rollerbed option is now standard for turbine primary cleaning systems too, and a new Q-616 model with the latest turbine table created considerable interest.

“The Vervaet harvester-based beet chaser was also a key attraction, and the working conditions highlighted the benefits it offers by allowing tractors and trailers to avoid travelling in the working area.”

Already a busy year

Orders confirmed during the day included a new Evo 625 and a Quad self-propelled slurry applicator. “The mood is positive in the beet industry even though it’s been a challenging lifting season,” continued Matt. “Growers are reassured by price agreements with British Sugar, and most contractors we deal with will harvest larger areas next season. We’ve already taken orders for more harvesters this year than we sold all last year – although that, too, was exceptional.”

Matt expressed his thanks for the use of the field and crop to owner H Jones Farms Ltd, and to Paul Cornwell, Robert Wright, Peter Steward, Fred Southgate, and David Hammond for lending their machines.

sugar beet harvester
sugar beet harvester

30-year celebrations

Celebrations marking the 30-year partnership between Dutch manufacturer Vervaet and J Riley the UK importer included a special edition harvester with commemorative logos, and an appearance by Jeremy Riley who set up the J Riley Agri business 30 years ago, but who retired last year.


Farmers Guide is at J Riley’s 2024 working demo day in Little Witchingham, Norwich today, viewing the latest Vervaet beet harvester range at work 👏 #FarmMachinery #UKFarming #Farming #Agriculture #Tractor #Tractors #FarmShow #Vervaet #Beet #SugarBeet #beetharvest #JRiley #BeetHarvester #DemoDay #Norwich

♬ original sound – Farmers Guide

Suffolk-based contractor

Many of those attending the event had come to see Vervaet’s latest header in action. In 2022, Vervaet added a rollerbed primary cleaning system option for those operating where soil conditions are suitable, and this was housed within a new frame offering much better visibility and simpler adjustment of the lifting shares. The latest frame is now available with the turbine primary cleaning system too, and it also features an updated walking share design for even better crop flow.

The new Q-616 harvester is owned by Suffolk-based Cornwell Contracting. “I used a pre-production test machine last year with the latest lifting shares which are standard on this new table,” explained Cornwell Contracting operator, Tim Rooney. “Having used the original version the year before that, the advantages of the new lifting shares were quickly apparent. They are longer with more clearance, and in sticky conditions the crop flow is significantly improved. With the new shares mounted within the new frame, our latest model harvester is even better. I have a clear view of the crop coming in and can tweak the settings to get the best possible results. Another improvement of the new table is that is that I can slew it further to each side. That means it’s no problem working back against previous rows even if the join or row spacing is narrow, as there is no risk of the wheels running on the beet.

“I’m very impressed by the new harvester. Because it’s easier to see what is going on, it’s much less tiring to drive and achieves better results for our customers.”

Self-propelled chaser

sugar beet harvester
The operator’s view of the lifting shares and turbine bed is superb.

The Vervaet Beet Eater Chaser is converted from a retired Beet Eater 625 harvester, retaining the original 600hp engine, transmission, and the six large flotation wheels. The 25t bunker has a reduced 20t capacity as the left-hand side height is lower for beet harvesters to unload on the move, and the unloading elevator is extended to reach over the side of high lorries, or to drop beet in the centre of a heap for lorry loading by mouse.

Matt Carse suggests that advantages of the chaser over tractors and trailers include the ability to travel on soft ground without creating ruts due to the low-pressure tyres. Also, because the two rear steering wheels are positioned between the track of the four front drive wheels; the ground is left level and easier to manage during subsequent cultivations.

Vervaet beet eater chaser

The Vervaet Beet Chaser at the event is owned by farmers and contractors PH Hammond based at Yaxley, Norfolk. David Hammond was at the event with his son James, and he told Farmers Guide that most farms where he harvests beet are on heavy ground, and tractors and trailers used for carting beet often make more mess and deeper ruts than the harvester. “We converted an old Vervaet harvester ourselves to operate as a chaser. We liked the idea of the six driven wheels including the rear pair in the centre for distributing the weight. Using a chaser means that less mud is dropped on the roads, and although we do charge customers a premium for the chaser, it’s been an easy decision this year as on many farms it was just too wet for tractors and trailers.”

“An ideal match”

PH Hammond

Last year, the Hammonds invested in a Vervaet Chaser converted by J Riley Agri. “After using our home-made chaser for several years we knew it was the right way to go for customers in our area,” David continued. “So, we ordered this ‘new’ chaser which was still converted from an older harvester, but which had been completely reconditioned throughout, and which incorporated several significant modifications. The modified 20t tank is an ideal match for our 16t-capacity Q-616 when it’s unloading on the move, and the extended elevator allows us to create a mouse heap from the sides, and avoids the ruts made by trailers unloading onto a heap from the ends. The level ground makes it easier for the mouse to load the beet and those at the bottom stay cleaner.

“Logistics of transporting beet in the field are just as important as the harvesting operation itself, and even though conditions this year have been exceptionally wet, getting beet off the field was a breeze. We get on well with Matt Carse, and the service from the J Riley Agri team remains as good as before he took over. If a problem occurs then someone comes out immediately to get us going, if it’s not something that they can talk us through over the phone.”

Central tyre inflation

Trading as DT Contracting Beet Ltd and based in Lincolnshire, Darryl Tutty has used Vervaet harvesters supplied by J Riley Agri since 1999, apart from a two-year period when, Darryl explained, he was tempted by a lower priced machine before quickly returning to Vervaet for the superior reliability and performance. “We started with a 17t harvester, then had a series of 625s which were updated every two years,” he explained. “We have a four-wheel Q-616 with a rollerbed lifting table currently but will probably return to a larger Evo 625 again with open-ended turbines as they perform better and retain more of the tap root in a wet season, and the additional bunker capacity is an advantage.”

Darryl’s current Q-616 is his first harvester with a central tyre inflation system. “This year, in the wet conditions, I’ve been amazed at the difference it makes. We inflate the tyres to 2.5 Bar for road work and reduce pressures to 1.8 in the field, but where conditions were exceptionally wet this year, reducing pressures to 1.4 bar allowed us to work where we couldn’t have previously. Any future machines will have it too.

“As well as getting on well with the Vervaet harvesters, we enjoy great back-up from the Riley team. Workshop manager, Harry Skeet’s depth of knowledge is unbelievable. All the service team members are friendly and look after us well. We won’t move away from Vervaet, and we attended the working day to see the turbine cleaners in the latest table frame in action.”

Notts-based contractors

JP Plowright & Son

Trading as JP Plowright & Son, farmers and contractors based in Nottinghamshire, Ed Plowright was at the demonstration. Ed is the third generation of his family running the business and the second generation using Vervaet harvesters, since his father changed to the brand in 1994 when J Riley Agri became the UK importer. Ed said he lifts approximately 2,200ha of beet each year including 400ha of his own. “We had Moreau beet harvesters previously, and they were supplied and looked after by J Riley too,” he explained. Ed is pictured below with Vervaet managing director, Robin Vervaet.

Wider slurry machinery offering

The Vervaet Quad slurry applicator was demonstrated. J Riley Agri sales director for slurry machinery Sion Williams commented that the Quad tanker appeals to UK farmers and contractors for its ability to operate with the front and rear wheels aligned on tramlines for applications to growing crops, or with crabbed steering so that the front and rear wheels run on different ground to spread the weight on stubbles and grassland.


A recent agreement with Evers means that the company’s highly respected range of slurry tine, disc and strip-tillage injectors is now available direct from J Riley Agri. Pictured with the Vervaet Quad fitted with an Evers disc cultivator injector are J Riley Agri engineer and demonstrator Stephen Hastings with Evers sales and export manager Dennis van de Boom.

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