New hydroponics facilities for Australia's Antarctic stations

A new hydroponics unit was installed at Casey station in the 2000-01 summer. Casey was the first Antarctic station to receive a purpose-built hydroponics facility, which offers the latest technology and a much-needed increase in growing space. Two insulated 20-foot shipping containers were joined together and the interior lined with stainless steel to provide an easy to clean surface. The unit is entered through a cold porch, which provides protection for the growing rooms and space for general storage and outdoor clothing. It was assembled in Hobart, and shipped to Casey early last summer for fit-out by the summer trades group. Ray Paul from Access Hydroponics in Melbourne designed, supplied and documented the unit. Ray (Mawson plumber 1995) was involved in setting up for hydroponics at Mawson in 1995. He has also trained ANARE expeditioners in hydroponics techniques and supplied station units for the past few years, all useful experience for designing the new facility. He has designed a similar unit for Davis station, which is due for installation this summer. It incorporates minor modifications, based on Casey's experience this year. At Mawson the recently vacated Paint Store (ex Auroral Observatory) will be refurbished and fitted out, using the Casey model, but redesigned to fit the existing building.

Dedicated work in all station hydroponics facilities has provided a wide variety of salads, vegetables and herbs for expeditioners over the years. It is hoped that new facilities will allow the production an even wider range and volume of produce, with fewer of the pitfalls experienced in the old units. They should also ease the workload for the hydroponic gardeners, who dedicate much of their spare time to the cause.

Casey's record of produce since the start of planting on 13 May certainly augers well for the future: 64kg of vegetables and herbs were produced in 5 months, including tomatoes (Grosse Lisse), Cos and Mignonette lettuce, herbs (basil, parsley, chives, dill and thyme), snow peas, cucumbers, spring onions and silver beet. The success with tomatoes is particularly pleasing, (38.6kg harvested from 24 plants) as there was a relatively poor success rate with tomatoes in the other (old) facilities, despite a lot of hard work.