The CAP should have more focus on carbon and water management, National Trust director general Fiona Reynolds has said.

Speaking at the Inspiring Entrepreneurship conference at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester (3 December), she said the CAP still had too much focus on production and could go further in reflecting farming’s role in tackling the key environmental challenges.

“We need to take a new look at farming. The new CAP is still a protected system and is still not where it needs to be. The challenge we’ve not yet fully grasped is how to manage land as a resource, not as something that simply produces products.

“I’m not suggesting we just farm for carbon, but we have got to understand the issues better. Successful [rural] entrepreneurs will be those who can get to grips with this,” said Dame Fiona.

But NFU president Peter Kendall said that while sustainable policies were needed, there were real dangers of going too far. “We have to be careful about scaling back production here to burden other countries. If we’re not, we could end up relying on importing food while we export the problem.”

The rising world demand for food, the need to address climate change and demand for renewable energy meant those with new ideas in the land-based sector would be well-placed, despite the global economic downturn, BBC economics editor and Dragon’s Den host, Evan Davies told delegates.

“There’s no industry where entrepreneurial skills aren’t useful. The world economy is in the midst of a big change. It’s struggling to absorb hundreds of millions of extra people, making unskilled labour more commonplace. Therefore, ideas have more of a premium on them.”

As well as being born optimists with strong self-belief, Mr Davies said there were five key ingredients to the perfect entrepreneur (see below).

What makes a good entrepreneur?

  • Ability to spot ways of doing things better – identify the need
  • Imagination in finding solutions – not necessarily a gadget. Think outside the box
  • Drive to make it happen – don’t let someone else do it.
  • Understanding of basic business skills – need to be able to project forward revenues and costs that are consistent with each other and test those assumptions
  • Learn as you go – identify what is/isn’t working and change things if needed