Protein Responsibly in Buffalo

By Peter Murphy

Published August 7, 2019

“We’re from Buffalo, we’re going to grow with Buffalo,” says Abdulrahman Hassaballah, a PhD candidate in environmental engineering and one of the three members of the Protein Responsibly team.

Bug Burgers at Flutterby

After coming in third place at the World’s Challenge Challenge (WCC) Global Final, Hassaballah, environmental engineering MS student Anish Ajay Kirtane and School of Management senior Olivia Burgner have taken major steps to further establish their business. The latest is the team’s appearance in the upcoming Flutterby Festival happening in Elmwood Village, this weekend.

Protein Responsibly, formerly Numu, provides sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to beef and other foods that have adverse environmental effects, but are staples of the American diet. Protein Responsibly’s sustainable beef alternative insect burgers helped the team earn first place in UB’s WCC and third place in the WCC Global Final. The group will sell these burgers to attendees at Flutterby.

“Compared to other things we’ve done, this will be a true test of our product. It’s the real public,” Hassaballah says, “it’s not just the UB community, and it isn’t just an environment of familiar faces.”

Protein Responsibly has had to pitch its idea to unbiased individuals before. Burgner, Hassaballah and Kirtane won UB’s Bulls Launch pitch competition, and had to describe the initiative at length to neutral judges at UB WCC and the Global Final. The team also held several “bug banquets” with friends and colleagues to test out the burger mixture. This is the first time a broad public will have the chance to taste the burgers.

The team has been working with UB’s Entrepreneurship Law Center Clinic (E-Law Clinic) for assistance on some of its startup challenges. The group changed its name, developed mission and vision statements and a co-founders agreement based on recommendations from the E-Law Clinic.

Protein Responsibly has also been working to spread word about its initiative throughout UB and around Buffalo. The group will be featured in an upcoming photoshoot by a Buffalo photographer, and all three students discuss their success at WCC in a UB Sustainability video. Protein Responsibly also shared its recipe and made the burgers with local middle school students during UB Sustainability’s summer camp.

“The kids were curious and enthusiastic about it. One or two even asked if they could buy some and take a burger back to their parents,” Kirtane says, “best of all, the students seemed to accept the idea of insects as an alternative protein source.”

The team has had success within the UB community, and will now have a chance to share its initiative with the broad public in Buffalo and Western New York.

The Flutterby Festival is a unique “eco event” to showcase local organizations and individuals who are committed to positive environmental change.

Protein Responsibly will be at the festival on Saturday, August 10, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  near 307 Bryant Street in Buffalo.