Innovations in the agri-food sector are needed to create a sustainable food supply. Sustainable food supply requires unexpectedly that densely populated regions remain food producers. A Dutch innovation program has aimed at showing the way forward through creating a number of practice and scientific projects. Generic lessons from the scientific projects in this program are likely to be of interest to agricultural innovation in other densely populated regions in the world. Based on the executed scientific projects, generic lessons across the whole innovation program are derived. We found that the agricultural sector requires evolutionary rather than revolutionary changes to reshaping institutions. Measuring sustainability is possible against benchmarks and requires stakeholder agreement on sustainability values. Results show the importance of multiple social views and multiple stakeholder involvement in agricultural innovation. Findings call for flexible goal rather than process-oriented management of innovation. Findings also emphasise the essential role of profit in anchoring sustainable development in business. The results agree with concepts of evolutionary innovation. We conclude that there is no single best solution to making the agri-food sector more sustainable densely populated areas, but that the combination of a range of solutions and approaches is likely to provide the best way forward.