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Using social to go commercial: how outback honey producers are using Instagram for business

Central Queensland honey producers Mark and Jo Knobel
Clermont honey producers Mark and Jo Knobel say Instagram is one of their most important business tools.

ABC: Harriet Tatham

Outback honey producers in Queensland say they have Instagram to thank for newfound opportunities.

Jo and Mark Knobel are beekeepers based in Clermont in central Queensland, and the world of social media has seen the couple establish new business relationships in Brisbane.

Jo Knobel said social media was now the most important tool they used to enable their business to continue expanding, particularly when they were located in a small town.

"We have had a really good response with Instagram, just interacting with customers interested about bees and from that we have been approached by different businesses," Mrs Knobel said.

"An amazing bakery in Brisbane said 'we would love to try some of your honey', so we sent some down and they loved it.

Central Queensland honey producer Mark Knobel
The Knobels are continuing to expand their business through social media, now connecting with city cafes.

ABC: Harriet Tatham

That bakery now stocks the Knobel's Clermont produced honey, as well as a similar business at Peregian on the Sunshine Coast.

They have about 5,000 followers on their Instagram page, all interested in the bees and honey.

Mrs Knobel believes her creative approach to her photography has helped spark the curiosity of their new customers and people in general.

"I try and throw in a bit of the outback in to it, it is kind of a hobby of mine. I love taking photos and bees are a good subject — they do not complain," she said.

"I love having close ups of the bees and people like it."

More expansion on the horizon

As the demand for their honey grows, the Knobels need to expand their aviary.

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INSTAGRAM: Instagram Honey

Currently the Knobels have 40 hives and they will have another 20 by Christmas, thanks to recent rain and the forecast for a good season ahead.

Last year, the couple lost 10 of their hives to severe drought, with the remaining hives only producing 20 per cent each of the honey they would usually.

However, a mix of rain and strong demand has the Knobels gearing up for the year ahead.

Their bees produce around 200 to 300 kilograms of honey a fortnight.

"I think it [the season ahead] should be pretty good, we got that rain back in June, which kickstarted everything ... what we have had flowering around here is the Queensland blue gum and we had lots of honey come in off that.

"If we can keep up the rainfall we will keep the production up and then we can grow."

Varroa mite still a concern

However, he still has concerns around varroa mite and its potential threat.

"One of the main queen breeders that everyone in this region utilises has moved half of his bees completely away and sent some of them down south.

"As a result the supply of queens is a little bit lacking, so if you cannot get queens you have to start breeding your own and then getting good quality out of your stock is sometimes difficult because speciality breeders have been doing it for many, many years."