In his view, bees are the tiniest heroes on earth. They are also, in his view, one of the most intelligent small species on the planet.
And when it comes to views about bees Alan Bougen knows his stuff. The co-founder of manuka honey exporter Comvita says despite posting two consecutive years of losses - $9.7 million in June and $27.7m in 2019 - it is once again ''on fire''.
It's exciting times ahead. Manuka plantations in his view, are an innovative, alternative new industry and big winner as consumers once again embrace ''immunity'', alongside ''health and wellbeing'' which Comvita has had a 40-odd-year head-start on.
Bougen is talking to NZME to promote Bee Aware Month and is passionate about the insects, which have helped build an international business that has flatlined and regained its pulse. Comvita has planted more than six million manuka cultivars in the past 12 years on land it either owns or leases.
Comvita has also done a lot of environmental work at home, in the community and at its headquarters in Paengaroa, which has extensive bee-friendly gardens.
''We have created what I think is a small slice of the Garden of Eden. There is about 50,000 plants over six hectares and many of those are important plants for bees.
''And the birdlife is phenomenal so we have created a whole ecosystem on this property that didn't exist before. We have done that because we wanted to leave the place a lot better than what we found it.''
Bougen hopes the garden will be a place or legacy for our children's children to visit and experience.
Comvita employs about 500 people including staff based in eight countries - while the honey production happens at four sites throughout New Zealand.
''The honey is harvested and brought back in drums and further processed here and this is where we send it out to the world.''
By his estimation, Bougen says manuka honey was processed into a range of 300 UMF grade products, which are in line with the company's original vision.
''Comvita's DNA was always around health, nutrition, wellbeing and environmental practices.''
He credits fellow co-founder the late Claude Stratford for sharing in that dream and bringing it to fruition.
''We both had really big dreams and aspirations. He was 65 when I met him and a really big possibility thinker.
''Claude didn't see barriers, he just saw problems that needed to be solved.''
Those fundamental values continued to hold Comvita in good stead and while it had ridden out recent tough times, Bougen says more lessons were learned.
''It has been a somewhat painful process as we have had to downsize certain aspects of the company. Perhaps we have been a little over-ambitious thinking we could operate that particular model.
''That is not to say we got it wrong but we may have not got it right, timing-wise. But that is the case when you are operating a business globally and when you are addressing markets like China.''
On the bright side, Comvita has had a strong online network for shoppers and sales were ''going through the roof'' as more consumers turned to the internet in the wake of Covid-19.
''We've been talking about building immunity for 40 years. We were very fortunate that we had social media and digital platforms in place to take advantage of that change when people couldn't shop and went online.''
Manuka UMF grade honey is the highest valued honey in the world due to its therapeutic attributes, Bougen says, and all of Comvita's products are backed by scientific research, which the company is proud of.
Meanwhile, another project to bring the company and Bougen immense gratification is the manuka plantations and cultivar programme that has been running for 12 years.
''We've planted over six million manuka cultivars around the country on our own land or land that we've leased.''
More often than not they were planted on marginally productive land of little value.
''It's rundown land which farmers can't get their value back on. So we have taken over some of those big pieces of land and are planting manuka.
''We have crossed the manuka cultivars so we can get higher UMF activity as well as denser and longer flowering time.''
To date, 12 cultivars had been selected for the plantations.
''It's a long-term project but we have been funding all that from our own resources. In time we will be farming manuka honey for therapeutic purposes. So pharmaceutical grade product will be coming off this land that once had a few sheep and a few weeds and stuff like that on it.
''It's a new vision for an alternative industry in New Zealand.''
Comvita at a glance
• Founded in 1974 by Claude Stratford and Alan Bougen
• Its vision is to connect people to nature and good health
• Comvita shares last traded at $3.30 and gained 32.5 per cent over the past 12 months
Bee Aware Month
• Is this month and people are encouraged to help honey bees by having bee-friendly plants in the garden
• These could include lavender, marigold, sunflowers and honeysuckle among others
• Bees keep the planet growing by pollinating native plants, gardens and food crops.
Did you know?
• Honey bees communicate by doing a waggle dance which tells other bees the distance and direction of food
• The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans
• A honey bee flies at about 24km/h
• The honey bee beats its wings 11,400 times per minute, which makes their buzzing sound.