Space rockets fuelled by beeswax and drone-dropped microgravity experiments have been hailed as examples of how East Anglia's space and farming industries can boost each other's success.

The horizon where "Space-Tech meets Agri-Tech" will be explored at a free event on January 26 at Easton College, outside Norwich.

It features talks from space and satellite researchers, outlining opportunities and investment options for companies to trial new innovations which could benefit farmers.

Among them is Coltishall-based company Gravitilab, which has developed a fleet of vehicles including a reusable sub-orbital rocket - powered by a new carbon-neutral fuel derived from beeswax - to take experiments into space.

Each flight would require the wax from three to four hives supplied by Centuarea, which runs a high-tech apiary in Hilborough, near Swaffham.

With bee numbers dropping, Centuarea has developed technology to monitor the health of these vital farm pollinators, while the requirement for rocket fuel could drive an exponential increase in the number of hives, boosting populations.

Gravitilab is also developing vehicles offering access to microgravity and space environment for agri-tech experiments.

Eastern Daily Press: Norfolk-based firm Gravitilab has developed LOUIS, the world’s first drone-based drop-pod microgravity testing systemNorfolk-based firm Gravitilab has developed LOUIS, the world’s first drone-based drop-pod microgravity testing system (Image: Gravitilab)

They include LOUIS, the world’s first drone-based drop-pod microgravity testing system, offering researchers low-cost access to 4-20 seconds of microgravity without going to space.

Brian Zielinski-Smith, technical services director at Gravitilab, said understanding microgravity could reveal new possibilities for agriculture.

“In space there is no buoyancy, sedimentation, or hydrostatic pressure; this affects the way that chemical bonds are made, in turn affecting the way that things grow," he said.

"Allowing fundamental physical processes to unfold without the inhibition of gravity can reveal new possibilities with materials, organics or processes.”

A new space cluster is being established in Norfolk and Suffolk, following a successful bid by New Anglia LEP to the UK Space Agency.

The space sector already has many agricultural applications including satellite-guided tractor steering, directing the precision application of fertiliser, and mapping plant and soil health.

However, a new generation of low-cost satellites and rockets is opening up the potential for new services, said Agri-TechE director Dr Belinda Clarke. 

“Food security needs new thinking and microgravity environments enable us to consider literally out-of-this-world solutions,” she said.

The event, organised by Agri-TechE in partnership with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) will be held at Easton College at 2pm on January 26. For more information, see