A University of Idaho high-tech potato storage-research building will begin operating at about half speed in February - three months behind schedule and $140,000 short of completion.

Just four of the planned nine climate-controlled research bays will be completed when the building opens, said Gale Kleinkopf, superintendent of the Kimberly Research and Extension Center.Before seeking bids last year, Kleinkopf expected the building to cost $400,000.

"It's going to be a little over a half million when we finish," Kleinkopf said Monday.

The separate storage bays will allow researchers to subject small amounts of potatoes to various storage conditions to see how they respond. Storage problems damage about 8 percent of the U.S. potato crop each year.

The facility was expected to be finished by last November. But the custom-made computerized system for each bay's climate-controlled heating and cooling systems cost about $7,000 more than expected, Kleinkopf said.

"This kind of machinery isn't available off the shelf," he said.

Design fees also were more expensive than expected because a sudden building boom created greater demand for those professional services. Including computer controls, each bay's climate system costs $26,000.

Magic Valley Refrigeration won the contract to install the systems. Hansen-Rice Construction Co. of Nampa built the structure. Most of the building's cost has been donated by the potato industry, Kleinkopf said.

"As far as the industry goes, they have supported it really well," he said.

The university pitched in $130,000 and might provide more money to get the building finished, he said. The Idaho Potato Commission recently added $40,000.