“Ecovative called,” Holt said. “They were looking for a product to use in packaging material. I sent them some cotton hull blends and they liked it. No other biomass passed the crush test.”

Holt said partners Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntire, in Green Island, N.Y., developed the company, Ecovative, and the technology of growing fungi on biomass materials for insulation and biodegradable packaging materials.

The potential could be significant, a $2.5 billion to $3 billion a year business. Adding other potential uses, including insulation and core materials, could push annual business to $8 billion.

The R-value of insulation boards made from a gin waste blend “exceeds insulation value of fiberglass of the same thickness but not of foam board,” Holt said. “We’re working on it.” Core material can be used to manufacture things like surfboards and may be used in the transportation industry.

He said Ecovative and a hydro-mulch company, Landmark, located in Brownfield, Texas, which uses gin-by products for the mulch formula, are considering working together on sourcing.

The seminar was crucial in finding a new use for gin waste. “We spend a lot of time (in the cotton industry) talking to each other,” he said. “Sometimes we have to get outside our traditional area to find new opportunities.”

He said bio-fuel has been a significant end use for value-added farm products but he thinks gin waste offers potential in different arenas.

“The gin by-product is bio-mass and has value. We are trying to find how to utilize it effectively. I think markets are available. We see a lot of unique properties in gin-waste materials, but we need to segregate it to use it successfully.”

For instance, Ecovative doesn’t need stems, lint or sticks, just hulls. Other users may be less specific about the blend. “We need to identify who needs what,” Holt said.