The phytotron story is concered with the presence in Australia of large scientific instruments. The scientific and political commitment to those instruments was overlapping and indistinguishable. The instruments signalled Australia’s place as a first world scientific nation, preemminant in its region. Moreover the instrument was a sign of Australia’s standing as a member of the international first-world community, the community which contributed towards the stock of ‘pure’ knowledge for the defence of the free-world. But there were ideological battles as well. The defence of the free world was, for the principal proponents in Australia and the United States, connected to the ability of the third world – the battle ground of the Cold War – to feed itself. The task of the phytotron was to investigate the ideal conditions under which varieties of crops would flourish. This ideological function was, in turn, reinforced by the political commitment to maintaining Australia’s presence and influence in the South-East Asian region.