Disease and environmental controls in hydroponics

The annual hydroponics cleaning
The annual hydroponics cleaning (Photo: Barry Jones)
Clean hydroponics lab at Mawson

Prevention is better than cure, and strict protocols apply to all our hydroponics facilities. To prevent disease:

  • only sterilised seeds and growing media provided for the purpose are used
  • growing containers are scrubbed and sterilised between crops
  • no cuttings can be taken from other fresh produce supplied to the station
  • no food can be taken into hydroponics
  • no-one who has been smoking or handling fresh fruit and vegetables can enter hydroponics without first washing their hands and changing their clothing
  • daily monitoring for introduced invertebrates, fungi and disease is carried out.

The hydroponics facilities undergo constant cleaning with the removal of all waste materials, plant waste, algae on floors and walls and water on the floors.


Each year the facility undergoes a major shut down and thorough cleaning. All plants and growing materials are burnt in the station incinerator, liquid waste disposed of in the sewage treatment plant and the entire unit is scrubbed and sterilised. A new growing medium is introduced.

Expeditioners entering the facility observe strict hygiene controls. As insects and fungi spores can easily hitch a ride on those who have been handling fresh fruit and vegetables, anyone working in the kitchen must first must wash their hands and change their clothing before doing any hydroponics work.

Smokers cannot enter the facility unless they have washed their hands and replaced their clothing. Tobacco can carry the mosaic virus which afflicts tomatoes and capsicums.

Insect control

Monitoring for insects is carried out daily, and insect traps are deployed throughout the facility. Any insects that are found are collected as dead specimens and sent back to Australia for identification. The hydroponics officers are all trained in alien invertebrate collection and incident reporting procedures before departure.

If plants were to become infested with insects, the hydroponics facility would be closed down immediately and all plants and growing media incinerated. New plants would be introduced only after thorough cleaning and sterilisation.