Low-tech industries, serious leisure seekers, and innovation in the economic peripheries

Dr Kirsten Martinus1

1University Of Western Australia, Perth, Australia


In 2012-13, the Australian beekeeping industry had an estimated gross value of $A88 million, with indirect pollination service to agriculture of $A4 to $A6 billion. This is the result of substantial industry changes over past decades. In Western Australian (WA), 39,000 bee hives produce 7.5 percent of the nation’s honey, worth $A30/kilogram from a previous $A3. Interest in the superior quality of WA honey has led to multimillions invested in industry and bee research, industry traineeships as well as a spike in hobbyist numbers. Nonetheless, beekeeping as a low-tech industry is seen to contribute little to national wealth or to economic change and innovation, attracting limited government or research support. This paper looks at recent industry developments through WA hobby and commercial beekeepers interviews. It contributes to user innovation literature, where consumers innovate on a service or product sold to them by a manufacturer. Drawing on the concept of the ‘serious leisure seeker’, it unpacks how hobbyist user innovations are transforming the industry through both product and social innovations generating benefit for manufacturers selling to local and global markets. It recommends more inclusive research and policy discourse on who is involved in developing low-tech industries on the economic peripheries.


Dr Kirsten Martinus is a Senior Research Fellow at UWA, focusing on the distribution of resources, innovation and economic competitiveness. She is on the board of the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Geographical Sciences and Geographical Research, and the co-convener of the Institute of Australian Geographers Economic Geography Study Group. She has won various competitive awards, Including a ARC DECRA examining innovation in the peripheries and Discovery on the globalisation of Australian cities. She is well published in leading journals.

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