When leftover sorghum cookies were found in Tom Martin’s drawer, a new product idea was born.
Before MILO Insulation Owner Tom Martin began his journey with sorghum insulation, he worked as a commodity trader in Kansas. During his stint in the Sunflower State, Martin developed a relationship with a man who worked with sorghum flour.
Each visit, the man gave Martin a sorghum flour cookie. After several visits, the cookies started to accumulate and eventually got set aside in a desk drawer. When Martin started cleaning out his desk to relocate, he found the cookies in his desk.
“Amazingly enough, they were just like the day I put them in there,” Martin said. “Cushiony, soft, no deterioration whatsoever.”
A new product idea was born.
Martin began playing with the idea of a packaging material using sorghum as the primary ingredient. After research and development, Martin formulated an effective sorghum-based packing peanut called MILEX™. This product was so successful, in fact, it was eventually sold to Sealed Air Corporation, one of the largest packaging material manufacturers in the world.
Through customer review, Martin’s packaging peanuts were found to be an excellent insulator. This claim gave Martin another idea. After selling the rights to MILEX™, Martin turned his full attention to developing a home insulation product, which would later become known as MILEX 2.0™.
After years of research and product development, MILEX 2.0™ was perfected. Martin founded MILO Insulation, a residential insulation company, to sell his product.
MILO Insulation touts MILEX 2.0™ as the world’s first and only biodegradable, toxin-free home insulation. MILEX 2.0™ is a natural alternative to fiberglass or cellulose blow-in attic insulation, outperforming or comparing to traditional insulation products in most categories.
“Third-party testing tells us,” Martin explains, “fiberglass, cellulose and MILO Insulation are the same R-value, which is a performance indicator.”
With an emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability, MILO Insulation is dedicated to revolutionizing the building industry by providing regenerative products to consumers at a practical price with comparable results to traditional insulation methods. The company is doing its part to responsibly source, manufacture and install its products.
MILO Insulation contracts with High Plains growers to source their grain sorghum. Careful lab analysis has helped the company determine which hybrids and regions produce the best grain for MILEX 2.0™ formulations. The company has worked to build a network of grower partners stretching from the Texas Rio Grande Valley into parts of Nebraska.
Once grain is sourced, insulation manufacturing begins, and Martin has worked closely with scientists and equipment specialists to create an efficient assembly line. The streamlined process allows hulling, extruding, treating and curing of the grain to be managed by only two employees.
Once the insulation leaves the raw material plant in Tulia, Texas, it is ready to be installed into homes across the Texas Panhandle. Martin said customers report there is a more consistent temperature across the home, and they experience fewer allergies after the product is blown into their attics. The insulation also acts as a deterrent to pest and rodents.
Grain sorghum has untapped potential in the sustainability space, and people like Martin help push the bounds of what is possible for the crop. With creative thinking, the desire to expand markets and an old sorghum cookie, who knows what could come next?
“We’re going to develop other uses,” Martin said, “and some of them are going to be big.”
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2020 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine in the Sorghum Markets department.